Astrophotography with a DSLR

Capture the beauty of the night sky using a beginner DSLR Camera

If you haven’t caught the astrophotography bug yet, you soon will. The popularity of Milky Way images on platforms such as Instagram continues to grow each year. Beginners with no provious astrophotography are capturing stunning starscapes thanks to modern advanced in technology.

The Top images tagged #milkyway on Instagram (December 2017)

Many of these photographs were taken using entry-level DSLR cameras such as the Canon EOS Rebel T7i, or Nikon D3400. Most of these affordable DSLR packages include a kit lens (usually 18–55mm) that is capable of producing fabulous images of a starry sky when the right camera settings are used.

Camera Settings for Astrophotography

There are few things that envoke the kind of emotions a landscape image of the night sky do. The constellations are always moving throughout the year, creating new opportunities to capture the stars and planets. The Photo below shows an image of the spring constellations, with a bright Saturn in the mix.

A starry sky landscape that includes the Planet Saturn

The photo above used nothing more than a simple DSLR camera on a tripod, shooting 30-second exposures. Several images were stacked together using DeepSkyStacker, and then processed in Adobe Photoshop. For a better look at the process, watch this video tutorial:

Photoshop Tutorial: Stacking images to improve the Signal to Noise Ratio

Another example of an image using this technique is this portrait of Orion the Hunter:

The key is to shoot long-exposure images with a relatively high ISO setting. This will provide enough “light gathering” power to properly record the faint starlight in a dark night sky. For example, using a Canon Rebel T3i, the following tips will help you capture your first astrophotography image:

  • Use a “fast” aperture (F/4 or lower)
  • Use a white balance setting of daylight or auto
  • Use manual mode
  • Set the exposure length to 30 seconds
  • Shoot in RAW image format
  • Use an ISO of 400–1600 (or more)

Deep Sky Astrophotography

Once you have learned the basics of night sky photography, you can attach the camera to a telescope. This opens the door to close-ups of nebulae, galaxies and star clusters. The image below is the Horsehead Nebula using a wide-field refractor telescope for astrophotography:

Practicing your technique in the backyard can be the best way to master your skills. It will take time to learn how to acheive the best focus possible, but digital cameras make taking test shots easy!

The ultimate astrophotography target for a DSLR and wide angle camera lens has to be the Milky Way gaaxy itself. The following photo was taken using a Canon 7D DSLR at ISO 6400.

The Milky Way (20 x 30-second exposures)

For more information about astrophotography using a DSLR camera, check out this beginners guide from AstroBackyard.com.

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